Everyone experiences laziness from time to time. People have a whole lot of reasons for being lazy. From simply being bored to telling yourself, “I’m waiting to be motivated,” we will all find millions of excuses to avoid doing the work. You know that you have a lot of things to do. You have impending projects. You have goals. You have learning. You have self-care. But you can’t seem to motivate yourself to get off the couch.
For one, science offers us a plausible explanation – our brains may be innately attracted to sedentary behavior. The research findings, published recently in Neuropsychologia, suggest that our brains may simply be wired to prefer lying on the couch. It helps us from being tired and conserving our energy for survival – be it searching for food and shelter, competing for power and authority, and avoiding predators. There is plenty of brain studies done that show our brains favor survival over everything else. So, to get up and do the work, amounts to fighting against gravity.
Analyze Your Laziness
Evolutionary psychologists argue that although the world has changed, human brains have not. For the largest part of our history, our brain circuits were tuned for survival and reproduction. Although multiple advancements happened around us, they have happened in a relatively short period, and do not warrant or stimulate further evolution of our brains. You can take the person out of the Stone Age, evolutionary psychologists contend, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.
Matthieu Boisgontier, a postdoctoral researcher in one of these studies said, “Anything that happens automatically is difficult to inhibit, even if you want to because you don’t know that it is happening. But knowing that it is happening is an important first step.” We are no longer living in an era where we’d have to go hunting to find our food or predators were lurking around every corner. On the contrary, our growth has been rather fast – we have surprisingly moved from the bottom of the food chain to a fairly high spot. Within a relatively small time, we have made several agricultural, industrial, technological, and lifestyle advancements to improve the quality of human life. Today, we are even dreaming of commercializing space tourism and colonizing other planets like Mars.
There’s no point trying to learn how to “fight laziness” – you can’t win if you don’t know what you’re up against. Take a minute to analyze why you’re holding yourself back.
Maybe you’re not really lazy. You just want to take a week off from doing anything because you’re stressed out or tired. Being high achievers and living in a fast-paced world, we often feel guilty about taking a break. Which means you don’t have to read this article any further. You simply need to slow down. There was a LinkedIn post by the CEO of HabitStrong, Rajan Singh, where he spoke about his early days working at McKinsey, at a time where BlackBerry notifications and superfast email responses had become a religion. In his post, he reveals that on one particular day his BlackBerry stopped syncing and for the next few hours there were no notifications on his phone. His craving to hustle on made him uncomfortable without hearing a single ding and he realized that his device was not syncing. When he manually refreshed his inbox, he saw a flurry of unread emails and went into panic mode. Halfway through clearing his email backlog, he realized that, in reality, nothing had broken down. Nobody seemed frustrated at a seemingly delayed response. The crisis was only in his head. The moment we realize we don’t need to rush with our timelines, we can begin to slow down.
On the other hand, if laziness seems to erode your enthusiasm and energy, there’s something else going on under the surface. Laziness is a survival mechanism. It is the default behavior. And under the hood, there’s fear or worry, or some color of these two emotions. As a result, you lose all opportunities and end up feeling frustrated and dejected. When your laziness stems out from a place of self-doubt or fear or uncertainty, it leads to procrastination and this procrastination leads to not getting things done, and consequently, that keeps you from realizing your dreams and potential.
Laziness is Hardwired, but Iron Chains Can Still Be Broken
Realize that you are not inherently lazy, rather, laziness is a behavior you currently exhibit. Stop labeling yourself as a lazy person. Over time, laziness grows on people because after all there’s certainty in all this laziness. While laziness may be hardwired within our brains, the moment we realize that no tiger is hiding behind those bushes or we have to survive a harsh winter, we can allow our brain to release its grip conserving our energy for that imminent fight or flight response. In doing so, we move ourselves into a position of choice – to push our laziness aside and take action.
Here are five ways to overcome your behavior of laziness:
Alternate between periods of high focus and relaxation.
Businessman Alan Cohen said, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” Understand when you need to work and when you need to rest. Use a timer and focus for all you’re worth for 25 – 40 minutes. Then, take a five-minute break and do whatever you like. Just knowing that you only have to last for about 25 – 40 minutes can be enough to motivate yourself to get busy.
Label that fear.
Many people act lazy so that other people don’t expect much from them – they want to lower the bar. There’s fear of expectations. Others may use their laziness as a way to be passive-aggressive, a sign fearing conflicts with others. Maybe you don’t believe you are worthy of success, which keeps you indulging in that act of laziness. Perhaps, you feel that all stakes are on this one performance, and messing it up will make you a failure. Whatever your fear is, you got to dig deeper and take a moment to examine what’s behind your laziness. The moment you label your fears, you automatically separate yourself from your fears and that allows you an opportunity to start reframing them.
Accept the fact that some tasks just aren’t enjoyable.
I understand that not everything we do fills us up with joy and excitement. Look at them only as pieces in your jigsaw puzzle and not the puzzle itself. Successful living requires doing a few things each day that you’d rather not do. Just get it done as painlessly as possible. Be consistent and take tiny steps.
Create that urgency to change yourself.
Ask yourself this incredibly uncomfortable question, “What will my life be one year, two years, or five years down the line if I don’t make a change now?” Sometimes just by future pacing yourself into that position of pain can serve as an inner motivation to shift your behaviors.
Create a long-term vision.
What if you could live beyond a hundred years? What if your goals are not unrealistic, rather the deadlines you put against them are? What if you don’t have to achieve everything today? What if you no longer set goals to achieve them, but instead, set goals that you could grow into and the ones that grow with you? Having this perspective of time helps you gain a long-range view of what kind of life you want. You begin to understand that most effective actions require patience before the benefits appear. Oprah once said, “create the grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.” To overcome laziness, focusing on the long-term is crucial.